Overcoming Jealousy in our Lives
While preparing for this column, I happened across the story of Saint John of Kanty. Admittedly I hadn’t heard of the man before. By all accounts, he did all that he needed to do to move ahead in life. But he’s actually a great example of someone who worked hard to move ahead but was always blocked by others because of jealousy and envy.
Born in Kety, a small town in Poland on June 24, 1390, he came from a religious family and family life was important to him.
At age 23 he went to Krakow to pursue his studies to become a Catholic priest. He was accepted into a prestigious school. He graduated, and was ordained.
His trials would begin when he took a position at the school in 1429. The next 13 years St. John continued his studies and did some writing and was very generous to the poor.
Sadly, he had to deal with the jealousy of others. Because of his growing popularity, rivals began challenging him, making false accusations against him. He was forced out and sent to the town of Olkusz in Bohemia in 1431. It was intended to be an insult, but the people quickly came to realize that he was a good man.
At 41 years of age, he became assistant pastor at a smaller country parish. Some would be dismayed at not “moving up” in Church circles, but not Saint John. The people were initially hostile towards him because he was seen as someone who was disgraced and sent to them so his reputation preceded his arrival. What soon began to change people’s attitude was the giving of his heart to the things that helped people in their lives. St. John showed great patience in humility that took time.
After 8 long years St. John was exonerated and transferred back to Kracow. Through his persistence, he won over his rivals who ultimately begged him to stay. For the rest of his life he taught scripture at the University.
His life would be marked by humility too. Once John was sitting down to dinner when he saw a beggar walk by outside. He jumped up immediately, ran out, and gave the beggar the food in his bowl. He asked no questions, made no demands. He just saw someone in need and helped with what he had.
He became loved by the people as he was wined and dined with nobility. He took the message of Christ to all who he met. Once, he was turned away at the door by a servant who thought John’s cassock was too frayed. Again, his humility shone through. John didn’t argue but went home, changed into a new cassock, and returned. During the meal, a servant spilled a dish on John’s new clothes. “No matter, My clothes deserve some dinner, too. If it hadn’t been for them I wouldn’t be here at all.”
He finally did get some honor. After he died. To show honor, the University would take his doctoral gown to be used by graduates receiving advanced degrees at the University of Kracow.
Growing in holiness means trying to move away from sins that can creep in, including envy and jealousy.
Most all of us daydream or long for something. But envy is when we become preoccupied with the gifts of others, and do not rejoice that they too have talents but want to cut them down. One can become preoccupied with the other’s gifts and fail to see their own.
We hear a bit about jealousy in this week’s readings.
From Wisdom, we learn the truly wise in the world are those who choose to serve the Lord. Those who dismiss the ways of God devise a plan that they imagine will undermine the faith of a Servant of God; they are jealous at his devotion. As Christians, we look at this first reading in a Christian light and can see what those who killed Jesus did to Him.
In our second reading from James, we hear “where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.”
And in our Gospel, the apostles, just after Jesus has been talking about His future death, are busy arguing amongst themselves who will be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus though teaches them to be the servant of all; something He lives out and will again demonstrate when He washed their feet at the Last Supper.
Sometimes like the apostles at that point in their faith journey, we too can get a little preoccupied with ourselves. And while there’s nothing wrong with wanting to win or feeling good at recognition, we want to make sure these things don’t take over and become the primary reason we do something.
So, just a few things to consider when we try to look at envy in our souls, taken from an examination of conscience by Fr. Micheal Van Sloun, a priest of the archdiocese:
“Love is NOT JEALOUS” (1 Cor 13:4). Am I envious of someone else’s good looks? Do I find myself wishing I had someone else’s intelligence? Am I jealous of somebody’s popularity? Their abilities? Their success? Do I covet another persons job? Their money? Their clothes? Am I upset because everyone else gets all the breaks?
“Love is NOT POMPOUS” (1 Cor 13:4). Do I strut around, thinking that I’m better than everyone else? Have I been arrogant? Egotistical? Conceited? Do I think I’m a star and everyone else is a loser? Do I think that I’m special? Do I think I deserve special treatment? Do I believe that most others are below me?”
“Love is NOT INFLATED” (1 Cor 13:4). Am I proud? Vain? Self-centered? Do I act “stuck up” sometimes? Have I been a show off?” Do I think and act like I am better than I really am?
“Love is NEVER RUDE” (1 Cor 13:5). Have I been impolite? Boorish? Do I interrupt? Speak out of turn? Do I dominate the conversation? Talk too loud? Have my table manners been lacking? When I disapprove, do I roll my eyes? Toss my head back? Grunt or groan?
“Love does not SEEK ITS OWN INTERESTS” (1 Cor 13:5). Do I always have to have things my way? Have I been uncooperative? Inconsiderate? Inflexible? Uncompromising? Have I ignored someone else’s feelings? Have I paid attention only to my own needs, while being inattentive to others?
Every time we come together for Mass, as we celebrate the Eucharist, while we only celebrate the foot washing once a year on Holy Thursday, let us try to make the humility our Lord a true way of life, remembering it’s not about being noticed or recognized or getting the most trophies or the best job or nicest house, but rather about growing in holiness and helping others to find the way to our Lord. Jesus has blessed us all so greatly, each with different gifts. Let’s not worry about what we don’t have, but rather what we do have, and use it to glorify God and bring one another closer to Him.
Have a blessed week!
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